We look at a lot of applications, and every now and then we find one that is trying very hard to stand out from the crowd. My favorite resume had 8 different font colours, four different font types, and half the text in italics. It’s true that I’ll never forget that resume, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the candidate’s work history or skill set. These applications certainly catch our attention, but not in a good way.
You want your application to stand out for the right reasons, and it’s not through flashy design or cheap gimmicks. Here are our tips for staying top of mind and top of pile:
1. Master the Basics
Our team looks at hundreds of resumes, emails, and LinkedIn profiles each week, and what stands out the most is always quality. Resumes that are well-designed, well-written and have the right skills and accomplishments for the job are surprisingly rare.
Basically, before breaking the mold, you have to learn how to use the mold. Before you think about wowing the recruiter with your personal manifesto, check to see if your application succeeds within your industry’s standards. Is it well written, with proper spelling and grammar? Does it look professional? Are your key skills and accomplishments easy to find? Do you fulfill the basic requirements of the job description? If you can master these essentials, you’ll already be ahead of the game.
2. Provide Tangible Examples of your skills
One of the weaknesses of the modern job application system is that resumes and interviews don’t reflect actual job performance. You can solve this problem for the recruiter, and stand out from the crowd by providing tangible examples of your work.
This is simpler if you’re in a creative or technical field. You can just send a piece of writing or design, an example of code or a website you’ve developed. If you’re a teacher, you might have a lesson plan or teaching materials you can show. For other fields you may be able to provide a proposal or analysis for the company. If they have a particular challenge, or if there’s an area where you know you could help them grow, send them a brief document outlining your plan.
A word of caution though – don’t overwhelm the employer with a thousand documents and work samples. Limit your example to one file.
3. Present your information in multiple ways
A short video resume can be a great tool to stand out and share your information in a unique and memorable way. Humans are visual beings, and many of us learn better and retain more when we watch a video. Your video doesn’t have to be long, or complicated, however, it will need to be fairly professional looking. If you don’t have any experience with making videos, find someone who can help you.
A personal website is another way to provide information and creates additional space for branding. There are plenty of free portfolio websites and platforms that allow you to build a website from a template for just a few dollars a year. Again, it’s better to have no website than a terrible website, so do your research and make sure your site looks good and is kept up to date.
4. Make it Personal with Networking
Networking is a great way to stand out from the pile. If you’re interested in a job, explore the employer’s website and look for their staff on LinkedIn. See if you know anyone who can give you an introduction, or if you can connect directly to the hiring manager. Don’t limit yourself to people involved in the hiring process. If you know someone else at the organization, or have some other connection, reach out.